Autograph Hound's Blah Blah Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#SDCC – The project – Plan phase deliverables

The 5 phases – Initiate Plan, Execute, Monitor and Control, Close Down
Preparation is only worth what you put into it and what you get out of it. Don’t over plan.
There really are 4, count them 4, deliverables from the Plan portion of the Project:
Scope, Time Estimate, Budget Estimate, and the Project plan.
Scope is the most notorious of them. We all think we know what we are doing and think we know the scope. Then before we know it, we are doing things we hadn’t thought about.
You created your Charter; in there you said you were going to collect autographs. Every autograph? Collect the ones from the dealers on the floor?  Will be you buying autographs or only getting the free ones?  Will you try to collect the autographs at the hotels or just in the convention center?  Will you get photos or collectables signed? Will it be actors or just artists? What about the authors and directors?
As you answer these questions you define your scope. Ideally your scope statement is the law. If it’s out of scope you won’t be doing it. In reality, we all have scope creep but it’s better to define and decide the scope away from the action. You’ll have less drama as exceptions arise.
As you change your scope, you change your Estimates, both budget and time, which end up changing you plan. You want to avoid that if possible.
As you define you scope you will be defining some of your project plan tasks and getting an idea of the cost and time required. This is a good and natural, just don’t get side tracked into one of those activities more than you need.
Your scope is done. Now what does it take to make it happen?
SDCC really is just a few steps: Get tickets, go, and enjoy.  That is a ‘plan’ it will work. You will have panic attacks and more stress than you need and a few unfriendly arguments with your friends.  Been there and done it.
To avoid the heartburn, break those steps down to smaller parts.  Those tasks and subtasks become the plan. Nothing should be added that isn’t in scope.
 As you start defining the tasks, you can define the cost and the time needed to accomplish the task.
If you are getting down to the details of how any slices of cheese to buy so you won’t have leftovers, you have gone too far. Step away from the desk and watch some TV.
Doesn’t ‘Get tickets’ really mean: Attendee badges, airfare, hotel rooms?
Doesn’t ‘go’ mean to and from the show, what to do when there, where to eat, and when to get some sleep?
Doesn’t ‘Have Fun’ mean have fun?  How do you do that?  Which panels, which parties, what vendors do you want to see?
You can use fancy software, MS Project is pretty good. So is Excel, and so is paper and pencil.
I use Excel as its better than erasing and crossing out stuff. And my typing, even with typos, is easier to read than my handwriting.
You can list your tasks in many different orders: group them by type, or by duration, or dependencies. I find chronological the easier to follow.  If something is complicated and has a lot of sub steps that makes things confusing, then pull it out and put it on a separate sheet.
Something like this:

Task #
Airline tickets
Surf net for prices
60 minutes
Reserve tickets
5 minutes
Confirm with team price is good and can purchase tickets
60 minutes
Purchase  tickets
Collect billing info from each team member
30 minutes
Pay for reserved tickets
15 minutes
Airport to Hotel
Research taxi versus shuttle
30 minutes
Decide on taxi and inform the group of expected cost per team member
5 minutes
Shopping before the convention
Decision to Walk or taxi to grocery store
5 minutes
Buy groceries
60 minutes
Transportation from hotel to convention center
Shuttle bus vs walking vs taxi vs trolley
30 Minites

Inform group of cost and set aside funds
10 minutes

 I showed 4 taks and some subtasks with effort (time) and costs.
The other nice thing about Excel, you can easier sum of the various costs.
I usually do the tasks first and then fill in the time and cost. As I said, sometimes you end up doing it all at the same time. If it works, it works. After you mapped out your tasks, durations, and costs, you get to look hard at whether the plan will work.  Do you have enough time to accomplish everything?  Do you have too much planned during the convention, and do you have enough money? Have you outspent your budget?
If you need 500 hours to create your cosplay and one month left before the show, you need to replan.
You plan is costing $10k and only have $2k is in the kitty, you need to replan.
This isn’t failure. It’s an opportunity for process improvement.  Several things can be done.  Look over schedule and see if tasks can be rearranged in another order than can save time or expense. Can someone help?  Can you borrow something instead of buying? Can you do some ‘sweat equity’ to defer some of the costs?  Can you get a cheaper hotel? Or reduce the number of rooms (get a roommate)?  A different hotel might be cheaper but are there more transportation costs?
If that doesn’t work, then try to reduce scope: don’t collect as many autographs, wear something you wore before, or reduce the days you attend the show.  While that is not what you want to do, you do want to know sooner than later.
This is enough to get you started.  Anymore and your head will explore.  Been there and one that too.
If you need more, or if I confused you, let me know.  I’ll try to help.
Good Luck,

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